OLYMPIA – Washington state lawmakers voted to approve gay marriage Wednesday, setting the stage for the state to become the seventh in the nation to allow same-sex couples to wed.
The action comes a day after a federal appeals court declared California’s ban on gay marriage unconstitutional, saying it was a violation of the civil rights of gay and lesbian couples.
The Washington House passed the bill on a 55-43 vote. The state Senate approved the measure last week, and Democratic Gov. Chris Gregoire is expected to sign the measure into law next week.
However, gay couples can’t begin walking down the aisle just yet.
The proposal would take effect 90 days after the governor signs, but opponents have promised to fight gay marriage with a ballot measure that would allow voters to overturn the legislative approval.
If opponents gather enough signatures to take their fight to the ballot box, the law would be put on hold pending the outcome of a November election.
Otherwise, gay couples could wed starting in June.
Washington state has had domestic partnership laws since 2007, and more than a dozen other states have provisions, ranging from civil unions to gay marriage, supporting same-sex couples.
Gay marriage is legal in New York, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Washington, D.C.
Lawmakers in New Jersey are expected to vote on gay marriage next week, and Maine could see a gay marriage proposal on the November ballot.
Proposed amendments to ban gay marriage will be on the ballots in North Carolina in May and in Minnesota in November.